Australian senator suggests paying welfare recipients to kill cane toads

Open letter proposes way to curb invasive pest

By LISA JANE HARDING, CNN
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

A cane toad

(CNN) - A controversial Australian politician has proposed that the country's government pay members of the public to kill cane toads in a bid to help curb the invasive pest.

In an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Sen. Pauline Hanson said that during the summer in Queensland and neighboring states, an explosion of cane toads hatch, adding to the estimated 200 million already hopping around Australia.

Speaking on Australian TV Wednesday, Hanson suggested that Australians should receive 10 cents ($0.07) for every cane toad killed. She added that people on welfare, "or even kids on holiday," could help participate in the effort. "Take them to your local council, put them in the freezer, get rid of them and clean up our environment," said Hanson, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.

Studies estimate that cane toads -- originally introduced to Australia from Hawaii in the 1930s to tackle crop-damaging beetles -- pose a threat to around 75 native species due to their toxicity.

Hanson accused the government of failing to adequately deal with the issue despite spending almost 2 million AUD ($1.4 million) in research.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton dismissed Hanson's concerns, saying she was trying to "grab a bit of attention for (her political party) One Nation," Nine News reported.

Ecologists have also dismissed the cash-for-toads idea. Professor Rob Capon from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience told Nine a bounty on toads was simply "not practical."

"From an ecological point of view it's unlikely to have an impact on the cane toad population. On a practical level there are all manor of problems," he said.

The founder and leader of the populist right-wing party One Nation, Hanson is no stranger to controversy.

In 2017, she was widely criticized for a stunt in which she wore a burqa to Parliament, to call for the Islamic dress to be banned. Last year, Hanson advanced a motion decrying the "deplorable rise of anti-white racism" and saying "it is okay to be white."

That motion was only narrowly defeated after the conservative Australian government told its MPs to back it, attracting considerable outrage from opposition lawmakers.

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